The two-time Tour de France winner was away with Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix) after the pair dropped the rest of the field well before the finish.
Pogačar was arguably the strongest rider in the race but was unable to shed van der Poel on the last two climbs of the race, the Kwaremont and Paterberg. The pair came into the final 1,000m with a healthy gap over Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) and Valentin Maduous (Groupama FDJ) but the two leaders slowed and allowed the pair to regain contact with the line in sight. Van der Poel had ushered Pogačar to the front with around 900m to go but the UAE rider refused to take a turn.
Van der Poel launched his winning sprint from the front with van Baarle and Maduous flanking the Alpecin rider on each side. That left Pogačar almost immediately boxed in, although he didn’t have the initial power to match van der Poel when the Dutchman first accelerated.
Race report: Tour of Flanders 2022
At one point, with around 30m to go, Pogacar even took his hands off the bars, and seemed to push van Baarle. He was clearly angry as he threw his arms up as he crossed the line, and refused to talk to the media straight after the finish.
“It was either that or fall off,” McEwen said on Eurosport in relation to Pogačar taking his hands off the bars.
“He got himself so squeezed in between the two but he really did make a, what you’d have to call, with all due respect to Tadej Pogačar, a junior error coming into a sprint like that. You just can’t afford to let riders come back with momentum like that. He did it to himself, I’m sorry to say. It’s another learning experience, maybe dropping back out of University and back to primary school when it comes back to a sprint for the finish.”
Pogačar took fourth on the line with van Baarle taking third and Maduous completing the podium.
— Ronde Van Vlaanderen (@RondeVlaanderen) April 3, 2022